Marquis Duriel Lewis, aka RETNA

Dovetail Mortises and La Peluca Grande

October 10 - November 9, 2019

For those familiar with the graffiti-style artwork synonymous with RETNA’s career, it comes as no surprise that Marquis Duriel Lewis (aka RETNA) intrinsically transforms his craft from the very signature of canvas work that catapulted his artistic career.

This exhibition — specifically titled under his full name, Marquis Duriel Lewis, and not RETNA, which is the name associated with his text-based work — showcases his recent paintings of abstract expressionism and portraiture both on canvas and paper. Lewis departs from graffiti and relinquishes his talent to paint with raw intensity, which transcends his vocabulary of calligraphy and continues his evolution as a fine artist.

With profoundly turbulent creativity, Lewis oscillates between the torment of genius and self-awareness, as he alienates himself from text-based work to the challenge of working in a looser method. Inspired by his recent art teachings with young children, Lewis has internalized a childlike approach to his art, allowing for creative freedom. Lewis describes his latest works, “They come with a fascination of wanting to be like a child, or wanting to paint like one. I’ve been trying to paint like them ever since I’ve been working with them, and I’ve found it very difficult. They have this absolute freedom, and they don’t have these restrictions that we put on ourselves as adults with all our emotional baggage. I’ve become very linear with the text-based work, it has to look a certain way. And every time I would paint with these kid’s they would just have this looseness, they have this amazing ability to just be loose, to be free. It took me a very long time to get there.”

Lewis’ portrait subject matter, however is anything but childlike, depicting known powerful figureheads, La Peluca Grande, the big wigs are portrayed as either friend or foe. Each painting vibrates with emotion, committing the viewer to an intensely personal relationship with the portrait, an abstract interpretation of personality with lashings of vigorous loose brushstrokes and markings that depict cultural references known to Lewis about his subjects.

In totality, the exhibition debuts his new series of large canvas works including smaller paintings as works on paper, along with his widely recognized large text-based works that RETNA admirers will crave to view. Also, Lewis reflects from the past with his passion for fashion photography — fashion billboards were his original canvas. By adding nostalgia with new digital techniques, Lewis merges his Brimstone style with photography in a small collection of fashion-focused prints.

-Max Trowbridge, October 2019

These paintings come with a fascination of wanting to be like a child, or wanting to paint like one. It took me a very long time to get there.
— marquis duriel lewis